It was in 2011 that audiences last saw Swamp Thing get rebooted and what came after that was quite possibly the best run in the character’s history. Now that The New 52 is a slowly fading memory the time has come for the quagmire trudging hero to be reintroduced and what better person for the job than Len Wein?
For those unfamiliar with the history of this particular character, Swamp Thing was created some 45 years ago by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson so it is a real treat to see the former return to pen a new adventure for his peculiar creation.
There should be no doubt after this issue that Len still has the firmest grasp on what his character should be as he takes the reader on a simple yet highly effective journey through a gothic world that is far removed from that occupied by the ‘shinier’ heroes such as Superman. The most important thing that he does right off the bat is to make the new book accessible to old and new audiences alike by weaving Swamp Thing’s origins into the tale naturally, providing key information to those that don’t already possess it and refreshing the minds of those who may have simply forgotten after all this time.
The theme of this title is almost Lovecraftian in that it is set in a grimy world, drained of colour and full of an imposing sense of foreboding. This proves to be the ideal atmosphere for this particular story as it takes some darker routes, namely into the undead. It is in this area that the villain of the piece is revealed to be a zombie. Don’t let that place images of The Walking Dead in your mind though as this is no shambling, empty vessel but instead is a real character who has had some effort placed into his creation. Len has written him to be a very sympathetic bad guy as he is very much a victim first and foremost but nonetheless must be dealt with. He is not a rotten, shoddily held together husk either but rather a bulky, frightening creature that would have been very much at home in a Lovecraft tale such as ‘Herbert West–Reanimator’. It is nice to see that, despite the straightforward nature of the narrative, room has been made for a slightly more complex and compelling antagonist than can be found in several other books being released lately.
Another thing that goes in the favour of this book is the way that Len does not allow himself to become bogged down in the messy history of Swamp Thing. He does not ignore all of this rich backstory but rather than letting it mold his story in another direction he uses is sparingly to inform the character.
The script benefits greatly from Len’s writing style as he puts to use his skills in the crafting of poetic prose in order to give the writing a rhythm that is enjoyable to read. It makes sure that the titular heroes somewhat dated habit of talking to himself, and thus furthering the plot that way, does not slow down the flow of the book.
Kelley Jones and Michelle Madsen are in charge of art on this title and they mesh together well to deliver work befitting of the tone of the piece. Jones effectively brings the nightmarish side of Swamp Thing to life as he draws him in a rather grotesque manner that shows how far from humanity this being has become but, simultaneously, how close to nature he has grown. The surroundings of the Louisiana Bayou are suitably creepy, looking like something out of a classic slasher flick or monster B-movie. They do retain some odd beauty though and that is likely thanks in large part to the fantastic colouring job done by Michelle. She breathes life into every panel and offsets the supernatural with the perfectly natural in a way that most simply aren’t capable of.
This six-part mini-series is off to a strong start despite its simple story. It isn’t going to be a riverboat journey into the soul of a character and it certainly won’t be a hard-hitting emotional rollercoaster but it will be a sincere and enjoyable read that everyone should be taking notice of.
Score: 4.5 out of 5.
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